Saturday, January 24, 2009

Small Victories

(now with added flashback!)

Summer is really turning it on this year (as I type this hidden away in the middle of the house). It's currently scorching outside and that combined with a sore arm and difficulties with transport has meant I'm not helping out at the Vulcaniser. I'm pretty disappointed, but it was the right decision.

This week has however been a week of small victories for my arm. I'm spending more time out of the brace than in it, on my surgeon and physio's advice. This has meant I've had some progress. It's funny how something relatively minor can impact on your day to day life so heavily. And yes, a broken elbow is really quite minor in the scheme of things. One of NZ's top female downhillers and all round great chick, Sheryl McLeod, broke her neck around the same time I broke my elbow. She was extremely lucky and is not paralysed and amazingly has a crazy bungee for a spinal cord and is up and walking and back in Dunedin already. She's probably got a year of being off the bike ahead of her, so yes, a broken elbow is minor. Good luck with the rehab Sheryl, show those docs what healing is all about!

My healing is ahead of schedule. My brace was originally going to be off on Monday the 26th of Jan (and was then pushed back to mid-Feb by a doc I'd never seen before), so getting it off on Thursday was good news. Now I'm developing a list of things that last month were mundane, or not even worth noticing, that are now great achievements and reasons for celebration.

These all apply to my right hand/arm (of course):
  • Licking my fingers - especially after crumbling feta, mmmm salty goodness.
  • Scratching my nose
  • Putting sunglasses on
  • Touching the back of my head
  • Putting moisturiser on my forehead (still can't do it on the rest of my face without poking myself)
  • Doing up my bra
  • Washing my left shoulder and armpit!
  • Washing my hair
  • Sleeping next to my husband without covering him in bruises from being whacked with a hunk of metal

All in all, I'm pretty happy with progress, even if it is coming at the price of increased pain. This rehab is going extremely well. And I do know a bit about rehabbing joint injuries. (Cue wavey, misty fade to flashback.......)

Picture, if you can, 14 year old Tink, riding her silver ten speed home from school. No helmet, because this was back in the day, and in one hand a delicious cola flavoured popsicle. Yes, riding with one hand was silly, but two hands on the bars would not have in any way prevented or mitigated what happened next. Chatting to my friend and happily whizzing along, from behind us came a couple of third form boys, damn turds. One of them was either showing off, or just a complete shithead (I know which side I come down on) and decides to give the girls a fright by cutting in in front of us at high speed. Ahahahahahahaa ,not. This young man (whose name I won't put up here), misjudges his turn, rides into my front wheel and the next thing I'm lying on the road screaming and looking at the bits of gravel that are inside my popsicle. This is the least of my worries as my right leg has completely given out and I can't get off the road. Loads of people are standing around and my friend has run back to the shop to get them to ring my mum (yay small towns, everyone knows everyone). Then a different third form boy (who's name I also won't put here and who probably doesn't even remember this, but who I'm still extremely grateful to) picks my up off the road and lays me out on the grass. After that everything is a blur, but the result is a severely torn ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) in my right knee and months and months of physio.
At the time I was playing competitive squash and was just beginning to travel round the South Island to play in tournaments and I wasn't giving it up because some little shit was being a smart-arse. That was until one Sunday evening when I was running to the back of the squash court to get a long shot and there was an extremely audible bang. Yep the ligament completely snapped. And once it had life was actually a lot more simple in some respects. I couldn't play squash at all anymore, my knee would completely dislocate with the twisting. So for the next 3 years I played volleyball and wore a brace and when my knee occasionally popped out, I'd pop it back in. When it got really bad I'd see my fantastic physio, but otherwise it was all good. Then in seventh form I had the ACL reconstruction done (and a huge amount of cartilage removed). If any of you know how modern ACL operations go, forget about that. I was on the table for a little over 8 hours, and woke up in an ankle to hip splint which stayed on for a month. When I got it off my leg was completely wasted to the bone and hurt more than anything I have ever experienced since (include this silly elbow mishap). I was then in a ROM brace for another 3 months (throughout the coldest Central Otago winter for a long time, brrrrrrrr) and had physio everyday initially, then every second day after a month. I had to relearn to walk. Now I believe the operation takes a couple of hours and you are up and walking around the same day. Ahhhhh progress, if only I'd had it back then. (Cue wavey, misty fade to present........)

Having been through that with my knee I have to say that this elbow thing is a bit of a walk in the park. Of course the one thing that makes the current situation worse than back then is that now I am obsessed with my bikes and am suffering terrible withdrawal symptoms from not being able to get outside and ride. Back then I was self obsessed and worried about boys (being a teenage girl), so a bit of extra angst wasn't really a big deal. So with that in mind the bending and straightening continue and if I seem a little grumpy (read: a complete bitch most of the time), its just because I haven't had my fix in a while.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bionic Woman

Better, stronger, faster. Well I’m none of those things at the moment, but I do seem to be healing pretty well. Last week I was back at work doing half days, which was pretty tiring, but I did manage a couple more rides on my trainer. I also had a couple of doctor’s appointments and finally found some information out about how long I’ll be in my robo-arm and what sort of stuff I can be doing. The best bit was I got to see my metalwork, I have lots of stuff in my elbow. More importantly I got a referral to physio (more on that later).

My lovely man has splashed out and bought me a new computer for my roadie which measures cadence (RPM) and brought me home some intense training dvds for me to play with while I’m stuck riding inside (thanks Paul). Unfortunately I’m not really up to putting in a proper training effort and can only handle the warm up session before I’m exhausted and needing a lie down. Feeling like a nana isn’t the best, but at least I can do something. Still it gives me some good goals to work towards so I’m enjoying it.
Further excitement occurred at the weekend when I got out of the house!! Shock horror. We drove out to Omihi in North Canterbury and helped get the Vulcaniser course ready for the race this weekend. I was intrigued to see how I would handle walking up and down hills for a few hours and amazingly I handled it pretty well and only had to rest a couple of times on the return journey. On top of that encouraging progress I discovered I’ve really got a knack for sticking pig-tails in the ground. Such a useful skill.

It was fantastic to get out and do something bike related with a really wonderful group of people, even if it did make me a little sad that I couldn’t have a ride on the fantastic track myself. After all that fresh air (and gale force winds) I was pleasantly tired out and finally had a decent nights sleep. Yay.

This morning I had a physio appointment at the hospital, just what I’ve been waiting for. It went fantastically and the news from the physio was all good. My range of movement improved massively while I was there and although it hurt like hell I was grinning the whole time. It turns out the information I got from the doctor last week was also wrong. So now I have to take my brace off at least 3 times a day and practice straightening and bending my arm, I have to take it off in the shower, I have to take it off if I’m just watching TV. Yeah baby, I am so happy about that. My mood was further improved with the news that I should be able to be out on my bike in about 6 weeks. Hmmmmm, maybe Mt Somers is a realistic goal after all. So all in all, things are progressing extremely well and I’ll be back riding to work in no time. Driving really does suck a lot.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Just Like the Wicked Witch of the West

I’m melting! Well I certainly have been the last couple of days. My world has completely shrunk down in the last couple of days with the combination of broken arm and ridiculous, extreme heat.
Surprisingly my arm has been pretty well behaved and seems to have settled down well. I’m no longer taking pain killers during the day and I don’t have to wear my sling as much. Even more excitingly, I’m regaining a lot of movement and now have the full extension the brace allows me. I can also easily lift my arm above my head and I can grip things now. I’m very much looking forward to my doctor’s appointment on Monday. My new found movements mean I can actually use the camera now so I thought I’d do a very small photo essay to try and bring you into my tiny world of the last few insufferably hot days.
Yesterday in Christchurch it hit 40+ degrees C and the day before it was in the high 30s. When it’s this hot the only thing I can do is close all the curtains and windows, and shelter in the bedroom that gets the least sun. Luckily that’s our bedroom.

I have been loving my oscillating fan. As I surf between infomercial after infomercial telling me I need this machine to be fit and thin and that product to erase my wrinkles, it’s gentle breeze has stopped me going into a homicidal rage and ripping the TV off the wall and jumping on it! I’ve realised infomercials are truly evil. They really attack a person’s self-esteem! I can imagine if I had to watch them (through the utter boredom of being house bound) much more I could actually start thinking that I need these bloody stupid and sometimes down-right insane products to make my life better. Terrible.

Fortunately the trusty Xbox has come to my rescue. When the boredom gets too much I’ve discovered that I can work the controller and it doesn’t hurt my arm. I would prefer to be playing GTA on the playstation, but it’s not hooked up in the bedroom so no go. Ideally I’d like to be playing guitar hero, but that is completely impossible in these circumstances. Unfortunately my joy of gaming seems to have been severely diminished in the last few years. Where in years gone by I could quite happily play games for hours and hours and hours on end, now I get frustrated and impatient in an hour or two.

Then there’s nothing to do, but sleep or fiddle with the elbow joint of my brace. Yep, not only is my world shrinking down to be the size of my bedroom, but my mind seems to be shrinking also. Arrrggghh.

Knowing this I do try to get out of bed and do stuff, like watering the plants on the deck, or having a nice cold bath, and to do this I have to put my sling on. Which is fine, except a quirk of its set up, or my incredible skill means that every time I put the bloody thing on the safety pin pokes my in the eye. Every time! Shrinking brain see.

Luckily yesterday there was a glimmer on light in my hot stuffy tunnel of boredom. My wonderful mother couriered my up a box of cherries from Central! Thank you, thank you, thank you! So yummy and refreshing when eaten straight from the fridge. I even managed not to eat the whole box in one day! Yeah, mad props for me and my crazy self-control!

So that’s kinda been my week of recovery to date. Even though I feel like I’ve managed to shake off most of the effects of anaesthetic and I don’t get dizzy and feel sick every time I stand up, it’s been too hot to do any sort of active thing. My poor bike, which has been sitting patiently waiting in lounge for me to get on it and spin and spin, sits neglected. My lovely husband, who thrives in the heat – bastard, has of course been riding every day in the heat and has been using my lovely bike to hang his stinking clothes on. Sigh. The fantastic news for me is that the weekend is going to be much, much cooler and I’m going to ride my bike, itchy arm be damned! I can’t wait.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Saturday the 27th of December and Pete and I decided it was time to go for a big ride from Vic Park to Godley Head and back, taking in lots of lovely Port Hills single track. This was not to be. The ride started innocuously enough with sandwiches at Break Free and a wee play. Then the ride ended. I’m not going to go into detail about the silly thing I did. Let’s just say it involved too much speed. A massive endo, and a right arm flung out to protect my face. And protect it it did. However when I looked down at my arm my elbow was on the wrong side of my arm! NOT GOOD AT ALL! We rang 111 but decided it was going to take too long so hung up on them and decided to walk up to the car. A lovely couple helped us with the bikes while I staggered up the hill, protectively clutching my arm to my body. I was surprised at the lack of pain, my brief glimpse had told me things were bad and I was feeling pretty scared off the pain I was sure I’d be in. Good old fashioned adrenalin got me up the hill to the car and I managed to bludge a couple of uber panadol from some very nice French tourists who looked like they were going to be sick when I showed them my elbow. I downed 1 and then I was in the car on the way to the emergency room. Very much hoping for a quiet day at the hospital. Pete did an absolutely amazing job driving me down the hill, the perfect mix of speed and smoothness. We got to the hospital and found a park in 10 agonising minutes. From there everything happened quickly and I was filled up with pain relief and sent for x-rays. At this point I didn’t think I’d broken anything and had just dislocated my elbow (which thankfully had gone back into place by itself). I was wrong. Readers with a delicate disposition, skip this next paragraph, just know it was a messy complicated break.
What had actually happened as I flung my arm out to protect my face was I had taken the full impact of my weight and speed on my right arm only. My ulna slammed into the base of my hummerus, splintering a large wedge out of it and chipping a disc about the size of an old 50c piece completely off the base. The result of this was my ulna dislocating out of the elbow joint giving the impression my elbow was on the wrong side. Bleurgh!!!

I didn’t know all this at the time and was quite disconcerted when the talk of surgery came up when my cast was being put on. As an aside, NOS is fantastic, so much fun!!! Finally the very nice Dr (whose name I can’t remember) told me what was going on and that I’d need some screws and a plate to reattached the bits that had broken off. Not good news. Unfortunately my surgery couldn’t be done till Monday because of a bad motorcycle accidents taking up the hospital’s capacity.

With cast on and plenty of good drugs in my system I was sent up stairs. There were a number of nice old ladies with broken legs in my room, but I wasn’t very good at making conversation and slept. The next day the Dr came to see me and I went for a CT scan, which was really cool. The good news came later that the break wasn’t quite as bad as the docs thought it might be, and surgery was booked for the next day. I was second on the list for surgery on the 29th and feeling very hungry by 2pm when they wheeled me into the operating theatre. The operation took 3hours and was a bit more difficult than they anticipated, was very successful. I now have some lovely screws and a metal plate holding all the bits together. It turns out that the bit that was broken completely off had the main ligament that holds the elbow together attached to it so I was really lucky not to break that ligament. They kept me unconscious for an extra hour as there were some difficulties getting my pain under control and it wasn’t until 8pm when I was back on the ward.
I actually had the best night’s sleep of all my nights in the hospital that night, even though they had to take my blood pressure ever 2 hours. The pcm machine was all good and I was in a pretty comfortable morphine cloud of happiness. That all came to an end the next morning when my useless vein closed down and I had to get a new lure put in. That afternoon they took my cast off and put my new robo-arm on which initially felt pretty good. Unfortunately as the day worn on it slipped down and when the nurse adjusted it it was pushing on my suture and twisting my arm. After the pain got really bad I got the nurse to adjust it and unfortunately the only thing she could do was loosen it off. This meant my arm was unsupported all night and I was in agony. I survived the night and the man from the orthotics came and adjusted my brace and bent the metal into the right shape. I was determined not to spend another night in hospital after this. I didn’t want to wake up in 2009 in that bloody hospital bed. I was assured I could go home once the doc checked me out, but he wasn’t going to be available until 5pm. Pete scored a wheelchair and whisked me down to the river. It was great lying there for an hour and even better getting to see Michelle. Finally at 8pm they let me out and last night I slept the whole night through without waking up once.
So I have a bit of a task ahead me. I’ll be in this lovely braced for at least 4 weeks and off the bikes for at least 12. That means the whole summer gone and no races till winter. SHIT. I’ve already started to plan how to keep my fitness and my sanity. There will have to be lots of walking, gyming and stationary biking I think. I’m looking at this as a big challenge. I’m back to the doc on the 12th of January so it will be interesting to find out what the prognosis is then. Any great ideas for training off the bikes that doesn’t involve my right arm would be gratefully accepted.